Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr Vindhya Persaud on Thursday stated that significant sections of the female working population are now jobless or are receiving less pay as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes single parents.
Delivering remarks during the virtual meeting of Commonwealth Ministers for Women’s Affairs and Gender and Development on COVID-19, Dr. Persaud said: “many women-owned small businesses are no longer operational and women in the private care industry have lost their jobs because they can no longer work at the homes of their employers due to fear of COVID-19 transmission.”
The Minister highlighted the risk of losing gains made over the past years to guarantee sustained economic independence, reduce inequalities and empower women throughout Guyana.
As a short term measure, she attributed to the thousands of hampers and care packages being distributed to bring immediate relief to families.
She said vulnerable communities are being targeted for relief while “a cash transfer programme will soon be implemented to bring relief to every household in Guyana.”
The Government included targeted cash transfers in its 2020 elections manifesto. Recently, President Irfaan Ali said his administration is looking at a $25,000 disbursement to every household affected by COVID-19.
In the long term, and with the goal of making women self-sufficient over a sustained period, the Government will soon fund projects for small cottage industries led by women so that they can secure their livelihoods, she told the meeting.
Guyana recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 11. To date, there have been more than 1,400 recorded cases.
The Minister said the incidence of gender-based violence has increased during the past months.
“The restrictions on in-person schooling has also seen more girls being exposed to abuse at home,” Dr. Persaud said.
In response, the Ministry has set up a virtual help desk to receive reports of domestic violence, child abuse cases and requests for social assistance has been created.
Dr. Persaud said a hotline number will soon be launched to specifically receive reports on domestic violence and child abuse and a Survivors Advocacy Programme is also being implemented to support women impacted by gender-based violence.
In addition, Guyana will soon benefit from the UN/EU funded Spotlight Initiative to address gender-based violence. Actions will be geared towards advancing changes in the prevention strategies and strengthening multi-sectoral responses to violence against women and girls.
Focus will be placed on improving data collection and analysis to allow for evidence-based decision making. Support for women’s groups and civil society advocacy will also be enhanced.
The government recently announced its intension to establish child care assistance for essential workers employed in both the public and private sectors.
Following the Minister’s presentation on Thursday, Guyana was recognized in the Commonwealth’s summary report for its Survivors Advocacy and Child Care Assistance Programmes and data collection plans under the Spotlight Initiative.